For the twenty four years I’ve been a part of my church, I have known whispers and accolades of Mrs. G’s sauce. Of course anyone in this very New York-Italian family will lovingly remind you that this sacred meal is pronounced soo-wauce (that’s the best I can do at a pronunciation guide), not “sauce.”
It is nearly a rite of passage, as a member of the congregation, that at some point you are welcomed into the G’s home for this reputable meal. It is not exclusionary by any means. The G’s are some of the most humble and hospitable folk I have ever known. Their home and their hearts are open and they share generously with all.
Once, as a child, I dined in their home, but didn’t have the palate to discern anything other than spaghetti and meatballs. As an adult, I recently experienced the blessing of their company in the quaint simplicity of their long established home, and this time
I could taste the magic.
Packed like sardines into the cozy, low-ceiling dining room with walls and window ledges bedecked with victorian style china and the like. Plates of parmesan and ricotta are amply situated at either end of the long table and Mr. G dutifully passes out napkins (not without a few wisecracks robed in an endearingly thick Queens accent).
Pasta and sauce are ladled onto plates with curled edges to collect every stray morsel.
I lift a forkful of the deep, red sauce-coated pasta to my mouth and before taking a bite I deeply inhale the aroma.
I chew meditatively, repeatedly lifting forkfuls to my mouth and basking in the rich depth of flavor. It is so subtle and yet so…
Umami. The perfect way to describe the mysteriously satisfying goodness that coated every bite.
I had to ask, of course, where this unprecedented meaty flavor came from.
Mrs. G replies rather simply, “pork neck bones.” The lowliness of the ingredient in contrast to the sauce’s superior outcome was somewhat stupefying.
It all made sense though.
Bones are the humble carriers of flavor.
Neck bones (as squeamish as it might make you to read that) are mostly bone, with very small bits of meat tucked throughout. They are very inexpensive and render powerful depth of flavor to a very large pot of tomato sauce.
They will change your sauce making forever.
What results is a ragu that will make your mouth water.
Searing the meat before it simmers in the sauce, builds deep flavor that cannot be garnered any other way.
This is a test of patience and the payoff is huge. This recipe makes 3 quarts of sauce and renders roughly 3 cups of sumptuous meat. For the price of one quality store-bought jar of sauce, you get 3 homemade jars and a bunch of meaty goodness.
I usually use all the meat, along with one quart of sauce for a ragu style pasta, and save the other two quarts without meat. But you could also divide the meat evenly among all three jars.
This is such a rewarding meal to pull from the freezer for a last minute dinner.
It also makes a thoughtful and easy beginning to a spaghetti dinner that you might bring to a new mother, sick friend or friendly neighbor.
Like an unrushed afternoon in Mrs. G’s home,
this sauce tastes like care, like family, like deep-down soul fortification.
Authentic New York Italian Spaghetti Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil divided
- 3 1/2 – 4 lbs pork neck bones
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt (for seasoning meat)
- 4 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 8 oz water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
Heat a large dutch oven or soup pot to medium-low heat (You want to preheat the pot well, so be patient. Long moderate heat will create a pan hot enough to brown, without being so hot that it sizzles and pops).
Thoroughly salt the pork neck bones with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt and add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Brown pork bones in batches. You do not have to cook through. Just get some color on all sides. Be patient. This takes time, usually about 40 minutes for me. I add a little more olive oil with each batch as it tends to disappear. Don’t overcrowd your pan or they won’t brown. Set aside the browned bones.
In the now empty pot (wonderfully laden with pork drippings), add a little more oil if your pan is dry and then your minced garlic. Cook gently for less than a minute and then return pork bones to the pot.
Pour in 4 cans of crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, water and another 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a bubble and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 4 hours. Remove the lid and simmer an additional 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove pork bones to a cutting board to cool. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning (i.e. add more salt most likely).
Once the pork bones have cooled, pick the meat from the bones. You can either add the meat back to the sauce or reserve it for one especially meaty ragu-style sauce.
This recipe makes approximately 3 quarts of sauce and renders 3 cups of deliciously tender meat.
For freezing, be sure to leave about 1 1/2 inches of room at the top of the jar (it will expand!).